Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios is right around the corner. Here’s what you can expect from this year’s sca
It may still be blazingly hot on the west coast, but fall is just around the corner–a time for pumpkin spice, horror movie marathons, and of course, haunted attractions. Every year, Universal Studios Hollywood puts on one of the best loved Halloween events in the country: Halloween Horror Nights. The event takes over the vast majority of Universal Studios Hollywood, starting on September 9, offering guests a chance to be terrorized by various themed walkthrough mazes and “scare zones” full of costumed scare actors revving chainless chainsaws and stomping around in stilts. That on its own is a pretty big selling point, but what makes HHN truly special is its dedication to its various themes. Every year, Horror Nights creates elaborate stories for each one of its haunted attractions–many of them licensed or branded for horror icons like Michael Myers or Leatherface, or directly connected to the biggest blockbuster horror movies and shows of the year.
In 2022, HHN will be offering haunted attractions themed after Jordan Peele’s Us and Nope, the original Halloween, The Weeknd’s After Hours album, Blumhouse movies Freaky and The Black Phone, and Universal monsters like The Wolf Man, Dracula, and The Mummy. Oh, and Killer Klowns from Outer Space will be making a return, on top of Horror Nights originals Scarecrow: The Reaping and La Llorona. That makes for an impressive 8 haunted houses on top of the park’s already impressive roster of attractions–many of which stay open after dark and during Horror Nights festivities.
Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the night, and without the more expensive front-of-the-line VIP tickets that allow you to jump right into whichever maze you’d like to experience, you’ll have to pick and choose which ones you’d like to see. Thankfully, we were able to take a behind-the-scenes look at two of the Horror Nights offerings in progress–The Horrors of Blumhouse and Universal Monsters: Legends Collide–and speak to creative director John Murdy to hopefully make the choice a bit easier.
1.) Freaky and The Black Phone will be a double feature
Blumhouse is a frequent partner with Horror Nights, so seeing their movies in the mix isn’t a big surprise–but the creative way John Murdy and his team have themed the maze probably will be. When trying to figure out how to blend a horror comedy like Freaky with a dark thriller like The Black Phone, the HHN team decided to tell a story about a haunted video store, in the vein of a Blockbuster. Guests will visit a decrepit mall where a mysterious horror video rental store has suddenly popped up, transporting anyone who enters into the world of these two films. Expect a lot of nostalgia on top of the scares.
2.) Freaky will feature some laughs on top of the jump scares
While horror mazes are, by definition, pretty terrifying–it’s only natural to jump and recoil when someone pops out of the wall and screams in your face while strobe lights go off all around you–the Freaky portion of the maze will hopefully make you laugh as well. “It will start very much feeling like a straight up slasher,” Murdy explained, “and then we’ll get more into the comedy.”
What kind of comedy, you ask? You’ll want to pay attention to the scare actors and the way they react to one another–and to you–for the full effect.
3.) Horror Nights mazes use all five senses
Lighting and sound are two most obvious components for any haunted house, along with the touch of spindly threads of fishing line brushing up against your head and arms, or the spray of water meant to simulate blood. But Horror Nights loves to go above and beyond and work smell into the mix, too. You’ll find this put to use in the Freaky portion of the maze, where the team searched for a scent that smelled close to Bath and Body Works or Claires to help communicate that you were entering the bedroom of a teenage girl about to swap bodies with a serial killer.
4.) The Grabber’s mask is going to be constantly changing, just like in the movie
In The Black Phone portion of the maze, you’ll want to pay careful attention every time The Grabber–Ethan Hawke’s terrifying villain–jumps out to scare you. According to Murdy, the way The Grabber’s mask was constantly shifting and changing during the course of the movie was a massive inspiration for the effect in the attraction. Sometimes it will be a full face, sometimes it will be just the mouth, and other times it will only cover his eyes.
5.) Yes, Samson the dog will be present in The Black Phone part of the story
The Black Phone may not have any ghosts or (literal) monsters to work with, but that didn’t stop the HHN team from figuring out ways to integrate clever puppets and animatronics into the maze. The Grabber’s hulking dog, Samson, will be featured in the attraction as a puppet managed by a performer behind a wall.
6.) Universal Monsters Collide will be the first time The Mummy has shared story time with Dracula and The Wolfman
The Universal Monster canon is full of crossovers and spin-offs–even Abbott and Costello got in on the action towards the end there. But there was never an official movie that saw Dracula, The Wolfman, and The Mummy meeting up, so this particular attraction is a completely original story that isn’t based on any existing movie in the franchise.
7.) The story is all about curses
In trying to figure out how to get all these legendary monsters into a room together, Murdy and his team figured the story would have to revolve around curses. “Each of these characters are cursed in a different way,” Murdy explained, “[…] we tie these curses that are afflicting these characters back to Ancient Egypt.” And you’ll be seeing plenty of Egyptian artifacts throughout the maze–and some of them might be familiar.
8.) The set dressing of Universal Monsters Collide came from the Brendan Fraiser Mummy movies
Most, if not all, of the major set pieces in the Universal Monster maze came from the Universal warehouses where the screen used props and artifacts from the ’90s Mummy movies were stored. Some of them were so large they had to be craned in before the walls of the maze were even built.
9.) The devil(s) are in the details
Throughout the Universal Monsters Collide maze, you’ll find plenty of Easter Eggs to the Universal Monsters canon, as well as some nods to other Universal Monsters-based mazes from Horror Nights past. You’ll also find some interesting details like the moon, present in many of the scenes, which will indicate which character will be featured. A blood moon will show up for Dracula, a harvest moon for the Mummy, and a blue moon for The Wolfman.
10.) The Weeknd worked directly with the HHN team for his maze
While we weren’t able to tour the After Hours maze created in collaboration with musical artist The Weeknd, Murdy was happy to elaborate on what we can expect. According to him, The Weeknd had plenty of ideas for his maze that he brought to the team, and fans can expect to see many of the aesthetics present in his music videos throughout the attraction. The story will take on themes of Hollywood vanity, Las Vegas glam, and plenty of nasty body horror and gore.